What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Landscape Designer

Want to revitalize your outdoor space with the help of a professional landscape designer? 

Just like any home improvement project, you’ll get more value out of your investment with smart planning, research, and most importantly; being able to successfully communicate your goals. Pick up some tips from our landscape designers on everything they wish a client knew ahead of a consultation. Consider this information a beginners guide to selecting and working wisely with a landscape designer, with special things to consider for St. Louis (climate, soil types, elevation, surrounding features and more are extremely important!). 

We’ll answer some of our top frequently asked questions about working with a landscape designer, how long the process typically takes, and more. Let’s dive into it! 

What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Landscape Designer 

  • In a Nutshell: Landscape Designers are trained professionals who spend years learning about horticulture, construction, design concepts, architectural styles, and care for our outdoor environments. A landscape designer works to create a plan; similar to a blueprint or site map; that serves as a guide for professional landscapers and contractors to amend or beautify an outdoor space. A landscape design can be as simple as a hand-drawn sketch on a piece of paper or a CAD-designed rendering or 3D model of an outdoor space. Freelance designers often charge fees ranging from $300-700 or more for a custom landscape design. Full-service landscape design/install companies (like us!) often provide a landscape design at no cost, as long as they are the ones handling the labor and construction (or, at least a phase or section of the design concept).

What does a Landscape Designer do? 

Most landscape designers will want to meet with you on-site, so they can physically assess the property and discuss the project scope in detail. This allows for a landscape designer to determine which plants, materials, and solutions will work best for the yard. They take measurements, photos, and sometimes soil samples to start gathering the critical information they need before beginning on the actual landscape design concept. 

Here is an example of a front yard landscape design, along with the “before” photo. You can see how the space is being reimagined in the design concept, to remove overgrown scraggly-looking bushes and weeds to replace with a perennial garden pathway designed to enhance the home’s curb appeal and architectural layout. 

Landscape Design Created by Quiet Village Landscaping in St. Louis

A landscape design always includes a descriptive plant list & outdoor/building material list, which indicates what goes where and quantities. Quiet Village Landscaping designers always include a bid for installation or anything else that needs to be done – like demolition, yard grading, tear-out, site preparation work, or remediation. 

What Does a Landscape Designer Need From Me?

Much like other home remodeling projects, a landscape design starts with a vision! Even if that vision is ‘make it pretty’. Almost every person who talks to a landscape designer expresses an interest in outdoor beautification. Beauty is in the eye of the behold, and as such, every landscape design features different elements. Some people think calming greenery and a neutral color palette for their backyard garden. Some want a bountiful summer garden, with planter boxes filled with veggies and herbs. Others go for the ultimate outdoor oasis, complete with outdoor kitchen and dining space, fire feature and pool surrounded by exotic, showy plants. 

Even if it’s on a scrap piece of paper, jot dot what this revitalized new space will do for you. Here is where you are free to dream big – and over budget. Remember that the landscape design is all about creating the master plan for your outdoor space, not just what you need corrected or fixed immediately. Thinking about a backyard pergola-covered patio space in a few years, tell your designer so they create space for that in the drawing. 

You also want to think about maintenance and prepare yourself to be open to a designer’s recommendations. For example, we’ll never plant a Bradford Pear tree for a client. A now-popular biodiversity faux pas in the Midwest is the planting of invasive Bradford Pear trees by homeowners and landscapers. Chosen for their bright white spring flowers, they are notorious pest plants that crowd out native plants and produce a foul-smelling berry. Let your landscape designer guide you through choosing suitable plants and materials for your yard and their natural environment.

Finally, share images or style inspiration that you like. Browse Instagram (our account has current landscaping inspo all the time), Pinterest or Google to find photos of yards, landscape designs, or outdoor living rooms you like. One or two images can have a profound impact in conveying your personal aesthetic to influence the design. 

Popular trends or terms to search now include: pollinator garden, outdoor living room, backyard makeover, low maintenance landscape, monochrome garden. 

How Long Does it Take? What to Expect from a Landscape Designer: 

Getting a custom landscape design for your property is a process that can take several weeks up to several months. First you’ll meet with a landscape designer – either virtually or in-person (preferred). Once all of the details and dimensions are in place, the design phase can sometimes take days, usually a few weeks to get back to you. This is because a landscape designer is usually working on several clients at the same time. They need time to brainstorm, research, and develop ideas then put them onto paper. While some designs are more artistic than others, they are essentially an outdoor living blueprint that a homeowner or pro landscaper can follow to work on the property.

For reference, below are three different styles of landscape designs. 

So, from first contact with a landscape designer you could expect to have your first meeting within a week or two (longer if you’re reaching out in peak season, which is late spring through summer). Then, you can expect to have the first draft of your custom landscape design within several weeks to a month or more (again, depending on timing and availability). 

An obvious but not super popular tip is to get a landscape design created in late fall or winter. Why? Because this is when landscape designers are the least busy. You’ll get the best of both worlds – your designer will have more time to devote specifically to your project and it’ll take less time, simply because their schedule won’t be as chaotic as in summer. Plus, most people don’t realize that many landscaping projects can be started in the off-season. Our expert opinion is why not tear up your yard when it’s freezing outside? You’re not using it as much anyways…. 

Here’s what a total yard renovation can look like right in the middle of construction. Wouldn’t you rather have this work going on when everything is dormant and gray outside? 

Most hardscaping projects can be constructed in winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Outdoor lighting and sound systems can be installed in the off-season. Pergolas, gazebos, and retaining walls can be installed year-round. Even hardy evergreens, trees and shrub can be planted during off-peak timeframes. Once you have your design and any revisions are made, planning and installation can begin immediately. This is also a great time to start researching for outdoor accessories or furniture. Recent material and shipping delays have made some items waitlisted for several months. 

Construction or Landscape Design Installation: 

Now that you have your custom landscape design, you’ll need someone to bring this new vision to life. Otherwise, its just a pretty drawing. All good landscape designers have an installation crew they trust. All of our landscape designs come with a competitive bid for all materials, plants and labor needed to get the project done. This makes our full-service landscaping team a “one-stop shop” for everything outdoors – including ongoing maintenance like mowing. Even if you do it yourself, you’ll want to install everything according to plan for best results. This might mean visiting several nurseries to find a specific plant or purchasing certain tools/equipment needed. 

Then, it’s enjoyment time! Make sure to spend some time appreciating your beautifully enhanced surroundings. A new patio might be just the thing you needed to enjoy a meal outside with family and friends. As plants grow to maturity, you’ll see why landscaping should be towards the top of your list for home improvements projects. A newly installed landscape is not nearly as stunning as a well-established, thriving landscape. The general rule is about 3 years to really let a landscaped garden take shape. 

With the rise of virtual designs and “plug & play” digital platforms for landscape design, we do see enormous value in selecting a landscape designer near you. Not every design element will be suitable in every climate, or even the microclimates we experience right here in St. Louis. You might be surprised in how much adjacent properties or geographical features come into play with a landscape design. We always recommend hiring locally, and working with a designer that is available to visit your property at least once, in person. Working with a Quiet Village Landscaping designer is as easy as filling out this brief online form. Or, you can search online for landscape designers working in your area. Gardening clubs, Facebook groups, and your community can also be valuable resources in finding a landscape designer near you.